JM’s review published on Letterboxd:
2046 is the conclusion to the In the Mood for Love Trilogy. After watching this film, it definitely not only makes you in the mood for love but also in the mood for heartbreak. I see 2046 as more of a tale of letting go and moving on and accepting heartbreak rather than some wishy-washy romantic one. It's very Kar-wai like.
Having such a huge ensemble of well-known Asian actors from China, Hong Kong, Japan and even Taiwan (Tony, Zhang, Kimura) in itself makes 2046 a must-watch. It shows the powerhouse of Asian cinema (even if it's mostly concentrated on East Asia but okay). 2046 is a daring film, much more daring than its more famous counterparts like Chung King Express and of course, In the Mood for Love.
Kar-wai, the auteur he is, combines 60s Hong Kong with sci-fi in such a non-linear narrative, much like his films, but it's really in 2046 that we see the intensity and effectiveness of that. The blend of the main story with the story of Chow's novel blend well, almost perfectly. Kar-wai here, transcends the realm of the present and the barriers of language.
His narratives are often called "weak" merely because they are simple and stretched out in a non-linear format and multiple arcs, but that's the Kar-wai way. It's unconventional. Combining 60s with sci-fi is an unlikely pair but he did. And does it so well that it's a big middle finger to mainstream film making/storytelling.
We have Cantonese, Japanese and Mandarin all played out and all three languages are dancing with the characters, another typical Kar-wai style. I mention this because I suspect if say, Zhang could speak Cantonese then why choose Mandarin to talk with Tony? So the actors are confined to their own native languages YET have to act like they understand what their co-actors are saying.
This makes it more difficult because they not only have to memorize their lines but also their co-stars and act like they DO understand. It's priceless effort. This and add that to the chemistry of all the actors, no matter who they are in the scene with, there is dramatic tension and undeniable chemistry that compliments the entire screen.
Zhang as always, delivers with beauty, Tony again, shows his versitility as an actor, Cheung with such mysteriousness, Kimura acts with intense emotions (gosh, those eyes) and Wong manages to outdo her Chungking character.
Cramped apartments that make inanimate object shots more beautiful, to cigarettes and smoking, to exotic music that makes you suffer from last song syndrome later (in different languages too!) to vibrant colors, everything is so beautiful to look at.
2046 is all about being stuck and choosing to move on. While there aren't as much setting shots as his other films, this one omits so with a purpose and to deliver the message he wants. Everyone on this film is stuck in the past, which makes them cling on to others. Like Kimura's, like Wong's and like Zhang's character, all of them are in search of moving on and especially Tony's. Kar-wai delivers his message in the most creative way possible.